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16th May 2023

Netflix’s Cleopatra documentary scores just 2% on Rotten Tomatoes

Steve Hopkins

‘Much of what we know thanks to Hollywood is pure rot’

Netflix’s Queen Cleopatra docudrama has been heavily criticised for its casting, but it has also bombed with viewers and critics.

Adele James, who plays the famous monarch, along with the director and producers, has been forced to defend her casting which even prompted an Egyptian lawyer to file a case with the country’s public prosecutor suggesting it violates media laws and aims to “erase the Egyptian identity”.

The trailer features claims that Cleopatra VII was black with “curly hair” and a historian says in the preview: “I remember my grandmother saying to me: I don’t care what they tell you in school, Cleopatra was black.” A top archaeologist insisted Cleopatra was “light-skinned, not black”, the BBC reported last month.

According to the synopsis, the series, from executive producer Jada Pinkett Smith, explores the lives of “prominent and iconic African Queens”.

“This season will feature Cleopatra, the world’s most famous, powerful, and misunderstood woman – a daring queen whose beauty and romances came to overshadow her real asset: her intellect. Cleopatra’s heritage has been the subject of much academic debate, which has often been ignored by Hollywood.”

While the “blackwashing” controversy has rumbled on, critics and viewers have now had their say.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the series has an audience score of 2% and an “average tomatometer” score of 10% after just one week.

More than 5,000 have had their say on the series that’s available to view now.

One viewer spoke directly to the controversy swirling around the series, writing: “I am Greek and this piece of garbage is polluting our history. Useless random guys sitting on the other side of the Atlantic without any fundamental knowledge Blackwashing everything in their path. Block them, sue them, revolt against them, revenge us.”

The critics were more focused on the show, but they didn’t find much they liked about it.

Camilla Long from The Times said: “It is patchy sub-Game of Thrones cosplay interwoven with academics you’ve never heard of.”

Anne Brodie from What She Said added: “Re-enactments, mostly florid, are brought back to earth with excellent background provided by experts. It’s stunning how much is known about the Queen, hers was an extraordinary life, but much of what we know thanks to Hollywood is pure rot.”

Movies and Munchies’ Chris Joyce wrote: “While the information is comprehensive, the presentation works against the scholarly authority by creating melodramatic sequences with cringey sequences that come across as fiction rather than fact.”

Related links:

Queen Cleopatra actress says claims of ‘blackwashing’ are ‘fundamentally racist’

Netflix’s Cleopatra director speaks out after backlash over casting

Netflix being sued for depicting Cleopatra as Black in new documentary

Halle Bailey addresses backlash over black Ariel in new Little Mermaid film